Program promotes well-being through relaxation

Hearing a diagnosis of cancer or living with continuing pain can be stressful.

Hearing a diagnosis of cancer or living with continuing pain can be stressful.

And stress can make any situation harder to deal with.

There is a place in Salmon Arm where volunteers specialize in helping individuals de-stress and relax.

“Research shows that when the relaxation response is evoked, the heart rate and blood pressure drop,” says Nina Dickins, longtime volunteer with the Relaxation Support Group, who notes the result is decreased blood flow to muscles and more directed to the skin and brain. “This creates a feeling of comforting warmth and tranquil alertness, along with the effect of clearing the mind.”

Participants in the drop-in relaxation group that meets every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., learn to use the mind to calm the body, relieving tension.

This, in turn, stimulates the creation of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and helps to activate the immune system.

Each of the 90-minute sessions begins with 30 minutes of checking in during which participants may share their journey.

This is followed by 45 minutes of guided relaxation exercises in a darkened room led by professional facilitators, with the sounds of soothing music in the background.

Lying on comfortable mats and covered with warm blankets, participants are encouraged to go to their favourite spot in their minds – perhaps on a tropical beach, high on a mountain, beside a quiet lake.

Meditation, progressive relaxation, visualization and soothing touch are offered as ways to cope with disease, depression, loss or anxiety, says Dickins, who points out there have been many transformations in people’s attitudes and ability to cope in the 15 years that the group has been running in Salmon Arm.

Dickins says group leaders are sensitive to and respectful of differing religious beliefs and spiritualities. They are careful to stay away from words such as healing or energy.

The soothing touch offered during visualizations is a gentle stroking between knees and toes and aids in relaxation.

Dickins, who has been a volunteer with the group since it began, says she sometimes meets people who attended many years ago and tell her how much the sessions helped them.

The Relaxation Support Group meets in Room One of the SASCU Rec Centre.

A welcome invitation is open to newcomers, who are invited to call Dickins at 250-833-0347.

There is no charge to attend the group and no referral is necessary. Would-be members are also welcome to just drop in. Wear comfortable clothing.